Where we find ourselves now: The saildrive saga.

In early January, Charlie and I prepared to begin the installation of our new Beta Marine sixty horsepower engine and saildrive.  Over a month later, the boat remains on the hard and without a power plant.

Though neither one of us had ever owned a boat with a saildrive before, we both have quite a bit of experience with engine installations and things mechanical; Charlie’s experience is with both boats and cars, while mine is mainly with cars.  Neither one of us was completely thrilled with the idea of owning a boat with a saildrive (we prefer very small holes to very big holes when dealing with things that float), but we hadn’t been worried about the install.  In fact, we were pretty excited to get things started.

We somehow always manage to look like homeless people, even while moving a brand new saildrive.


We moved the saildrive out of its box in the shop at the boatyard, and found a shopping cart to push it across the concrete to the Compass.  Once there, Charlie secured some line to the thing using one of those fancy sailor knots he’s known for tying things off with while pretending the whole thing is no big deal.  He then pulled the saildrive up towards the deck, while I held it in my arms, guiding it away from the hull, and I climbed the ladder.  With all credit going to Charlie’s fabulous upper body, the saildrive made it into the boat, and through its special, giant hole in the hull.  This is where we discovered our particular problem.

We’d conducted quite a bit of research in the months leading up to the failed install attempt, and consulted plenty of sources, both primary (manufacturers) and secondary (probable liars on the Internet).  Although, depending on the document or expert consulted, many different terms were used to describe the process, we always felt reassured when someone would say, “don’t worry; your saildrive will be a perfect match for the mounting surface of the old Volvo.”  Anyway, it’s not like we could have just popped the thing out while the Compass was still in the water to get a better look.  The old Volvo saildrive did have the same number of bolts, and in the proper pattern.  How would we have been expected to notice that they were all shifted to the right half an inch?

See, there were these tiny studs sticking out of the mounting surface that we hadn’t paid much attention to.  There was one next to almost every bolt hole.  Somehow, in the back of our individual heads, both of us had decided that these were little dowels to help keep the saildrive securely in place while bolting it in.  Things like this aren’t entirely strange (think the dowel on a crankshaft for a flywheel, or dowels on a block to assist in mounting an engine to a transmission), especially if you’re not really analyzing them.

The new saildrive even had holes drilled in pairs all around the mounting ring, but we’d find out later that this is because it’s a sort of universal mount.

Here’s where it would have helped to know one thing in particular: The saildrive isn’t supposed to be bolted down; it’s meant to be locked onto studs.  I’ll admit, this one took us a few minutes.  We tried to drill out the broken “bolts,” after we’d tried unsuccessfully to twist them all back out.  What can I say besides noting how tired and frustrated we were at that point?

So, it turns out that someone, at some point in our boat’s history, broke all of the studs that fastened the saildrive to the engine bed.  The fix for this would have been annoying and expensive, as we understand very well since we’re having to do it now, but it’s really the only way to ensure that the saildrive is secured to the boat correctly.  Instead of cutting open the old engine bed and sinking in a new internal mounting ring, the mechanic in charge of this project chose to drill lag bolts through the saildrive ring – one next to every broken stud.  The well-smoothed stubs became the “dowels” we had taken for granted.  Gee, I wonder where all that water got into the boat from?

Since I can’t get a full-on side shot of our engine bed, I’ve included the photo to the right to help illustrate our dilemma.  We’ve purchased a new internal mounting ring to sink into the highlighted part of the engine bed.  This ring will have studs that will stick up past the new fiberglass mounting surface and match up with the holes in the saildrive ring.  Although I’m pretty sure Charlie could do the job nicely, we’ll be paying an expert to do the fiberglass work.  Unfortunately, the new ring we ordered needs a slight modification to fit into our engine bed, and getting this done is taking an inordinately long amount of time (which is a gripe for another post).

So, that’s where we are with the Compass.  While the boat’s been on the hard this winter we’ve been able to paint the bilge, varnish the wood in the v-berth, fill some through-hulls, drill some through-hulls, update the battery bank, diagnose some steering issues, and have some new stanchions built.  The folks at the boatyard we’re at have been amazing, and every time we’re there I’m mentally editing the post I’ll hopefully be writing singing their praises.  I’m not gonna say that it hasn’t been nice being able to get a few of these jobs done while the boat’s dry, but it’s always disappointing when something ends up being this big and expensive of a job.  One thing’s for sure, though: given the fact that we were already uncomfortable with having a saildrive, we’re gonna have a lot more faith in the thing than we would have otherwise.  That’s a really nice feeling.

Published by Denise

I'm the one referenced in the domain name. You know, as opposed to all those other Denise Siskos making claim. Lay off, jealous Denises!

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